Favre, Vikings set to enter unreal atmosphere

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, January 20, 2010

I can’t even fathom it. Neither, I trust, can you.

One step away.

Only Father Time stands in the Saints’ way now, wearing No. 4 in a vision that not that long ago was unfathomable to Green Bay Packer fans – Brett Favre, their hero, not only suiting up for the hated Vikings, but leading them on a potential Super Bowl run.

We’ve heard it said that Favre, native of not-so-far-away Kiln, Miss. might have a nice little cheering section in the Superdome on Sunday.

Uh, yeah. Good luck with that.

He might have a few fans, but they’ll almost certainly be swept up in the absolute zoo that is going to be a Who Dat Nation that smells its best shot at willing its team into a Super Bowl.

Credit Favre – and Minnesota coach Brad Childress — for making good television, though and willingly donning the black hat. First, a needless touchdown pass with under two minutes against Dallas converted almost all talk on Monday about that game into a discussion about sportsmanship and the Vikings’ lack thereof.

Then, to a slightly lesser extent, Favre kinda-sorta kicked all Packer fans “you know where” when he said of the Metrodome crowd that it was nice to finally be on the quiet side of things for once.

Well, I can think of at least two fanbases that’ll be cheering loudly along with all the zoo creatures on Sunday.

I don’t know what to think of this game. It’s just hard to imagine the New Orleans Saints in the big game.

That said, remembering how the Superdome was in its reopening in 2006 against the Falcons…and leaving knowing that nobody could have won in that atmosphere. It was something special. It’s something that for the first time, I expect to see a repeat of.

And its something that might make it harder for me to imagine the Saints NOT winning this game and advancing to play either the Colts or the Jets in Miami.

I also love how the Saints match up against this team.

The Vikings do some things extremely well – they stop the run. They rush the passer. And they excel at moving the ball through the air.

But their pass rush has sputtered on the road, where that Metrodome crowd can’t give that awesome defensive line an advantage on the opposing offense. And the Vikings secondary is very vulnerable, especially with top cornerback Antoine Winfield dinged up and apparently demoted to nickelback against Dallas.

The Viking outside linebackers are athletic but not fantastic in coverage – that’s trouble against Jeremy Shockey and Reggie Bush.

Drew Brees should not have the same kind of trouble that Tony Romo did on Sunday – he was able to find Jason Witten again and again, but the Cowboys don’t boast as deep a war chest as the Saints do.

And then there’s the Viking offense – teams that have had success against the Saints have been able to control the ball via the run and strike with a balanced attack. This could be a viable strategy for Minnesota, which boasts one of the premier players in the league in running back Adrian Peterson.

It could also blow up in the Vikings’ faces. If Minnesota commits to the run, it may essentially be turning away from what brought it so far in the first place. The Vikings offensive line regressed in terms of run blocking in 2009 – its average of 4.1 yards per rush is good for 20th in the NFL. The Saints, conversely, average 4.5 yards per rush, good for sixth in the league.

It’s the most interesting part of this matchup to me. To get the Saints defense, teams have had to run the football. But if Minnesota struggles to run early in an attempt to get its ground game going, we could see two or three score Saints’ lead early on.

It’s really why I thought Dallas was a more dangerous foe for New Orleans. Its offense is built to run first. Dallas is most comfortable doing what the Saints defense is least comfortable defending.

The Vikings may have to leave their comfort zone to win.

Of course, with 70,000 insane Who Dats spending the week inventing new ways to be even louder for this Sunday … discomfort is probably a given.